24 Feb 2013

Review of How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

About last year sometime I noticed a lot of my female friends talking about How to be a Woman by Cailin Moran. I normally don't read biographies(and this is more a biography than a feminist bible-ignore what the dust jacket says) but I'm more than a little interested in feminism so it caught my fancy. Back in college I took  gender politics and sexual aesthetics modules and really loved them, I even when through a non-bra wearing and shaved head stage, so you can see that this was in my area of interest.

I hadn't read any of Moran's columns before and didn't realise that she was a well known British journalist and presenter. Mostly I like knowing nothing about a book beforehand, like my rule of not watching movie trailers or reading reviews before I watch a film; to not have any preconceived notions. I prefer to read reviews afterwards to see how a reviewers ideas tally with my own. So I'm glad that I wasn't expecting this to be the latest Female Eunuch or Beauty Myth, as it really isn't, they are far better written and well argued works of insight. This is more like one woman's memoir through her life explored through her experiences of being a woman. As a autobiography is genuinely laugh out loud funny, I really enjoyed her casual writing style and she has a comfortable and familial voice in her writing. The book reads like a chat you have in the wee hours when the bottle of vodka has come out of the back press. Embarrassing admissions and  observations like what do you call your vagina and breasts, to the etiquette of bikini waxing etiquette and botox. 

A lot of what she is saying is not new or groundbreaking, it's one woman's voice, her bumbling journey through her life. She is reminding us that feminism is still important, and that we can't allow it to become uncool and a 70's hippy thing. In an age that teenage girls are growing up surrounded by porn, brazilians, Photoshopped goddesses, and starved icons we need to applaud any sane voice saying no this is not reality, this is not what we want our girls to look up to. If I had a teenage daughter I would want her to read this, just to show her that being a teenager is awful for most people, it takes a long time to like your self, but you'll get there in the end, and when you do it will be pretty great. As an a woman reading it, it didn't really teach me much, but it was comforting to hear a familiar voice, someone else who doesn't understand non existent pubic hair, the obsession with marriage and babies, and the need for overly priced handbags.

In short this won't change your life, but it will make you laugh, and hopefully a lot.

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